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Iceland Starts From Scratch, Choosing 'Ordinary Guy' as a President

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Iceland has not had a new president for 20 years. This year, the so-called Panama Papers sparked the largest scandal in Iceland's history and spurred the island nation to take action. Guðni Jóhannesson, a history professor from Reykjavik, unexpectedly won the presidential election to the chagrin of insiders from the country's political parties.

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Guðni Jóhannesson, who has never held public office before, won 39.1 percent of the vote and secured a solid handicap from the runner-up. He will replace Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the fifth president of the country. Grímsson has been in office since 1996, the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið reported.

"It seems that the victory is won, and now it's time for us to start the next chapter. Thank you!" Jóhannesson said in a victory speech to his supporters, as cited by Icelandic broadcaster RÚV.

Guðni Jóhannesson is new to big time politics and only decided to run for the presidency last month, when Iceland's then-Prime Minister, Sigmunður Gunnlaugsson, was felled by the Panama Papers, which revealed that both he and his wife had off-shore accounts; a fact both vehemently denied. Ever since, the non-partisan Jóhannesson, who vowed to restore the islanders' confidence in the political system, has ridden a wave of the nation's discontent with incumbent politicians.

On Sunday, Jóhannesson turned 48, and votes from more than one third of all Icelanders probably came as a memorable birthday present for the proud father of five, who had earlier described himself as "your ordinary guy."

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Guðni has previously worked as a lecturer at the University of Iceland, Bifröst University and the University of London. Today he works as a senior history lecturer at the University of Iceland. His field of research is modern Icelandic history in which he has published a number of works, including a book on the Cod Wars, the 2008-11 Icelandic financial crash and the Icelandic presidency.

When the election took place, about 10 percent of the island's population of roughly 330,000 was thought to be in France cheering for the country's football team at Euro 2016.

In present-day Iceland, the president's title is largely merely ceremonial, but is vested with the formal power to veto the decisions of the parliament.

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